“My beer hand is cold!”

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With daylight savings going, it’s finally dark out past 5 pm. Katie and I took advantage of this, stashing a few beers in our packs, extra clothes, and sturdy winter hiking boots. Katie brought Yak-Traks, which are really an essential Montana tool, but I just trusted that my heavy, large hardy boots (they’re good to -20F with the right liners, and are 15 years old) would do the job (they did).

We got to the top of Mount Helena on the 1906 trail within an hour! In some places, the snow had drifted, and with the warming temperatures it had become heavy, slippery, and easy to sink deep into. We kept on trekking and even saw a nutter trial running in shorts! (This is actually not that abnormal but I’ve become more and more cold-sensitive and now that just seems insane to me.)

The top of Mount Helena is always windy, but it was amazing to be out and active. Katie and I kept marveling at the feeling of fresh air, of moving, of hearing the wind blow through the trees and seeing the sun glint off the snow. Sometimes winters here can feel never-ending, and cabin fever sets in, even if your car starts and you can get around town fairly easily.

I can’t wait to hike some more- it really does feel like the earliest of early signs of spring, just the fact that it’s finally above freezing some days brings me hope!

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A Wounded Little Beauty

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I bought this slightly wounded 1930’s hand-made embroidered creation sight unseen off eBay from my favorite vintage dealer Strange Desires. Vintage is nice that way- you have your measurements, and you know if it fits or not before you buy it, because the way vintage is sold is by measuring the clothing items. There’s no wondering if a size 10 will fit or if you need to move down a size.

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When this beauty arrived, I immediately set to work reinforcing the stitches on the snaps, re-sewing the hem and the sleeves, and checking to make sure the existing stitches were sound. It took me a few hours, as I’m no professional seamstress, but I’m proud of how it came out! She’s ready to wear sparingly and proudly. Whenever I acquire something vintage I always wonder what the lives of previous owners were like. This dress is almost 90 years old, what was her owners’ lives like? Why did they choose this fabric? Where was this dress originally made? Maybe its’ the historian in me, always searching for more information no matter what, but I also just love imagining that whoever wore this previously did so with purpose and love. (Such a romantic, unrealistic thought, but I have no evidence to the contrary now, do I?)

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The Food in Brazil Post

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Holding a heavy, ripe avocado in my hand, I marveled at the smooth skin. Before I arrived, Logan had told me about the heft and the sweetness of avocados here, much different than the Mexican ones I found in my American grocery store. These were bright green, and had fallen from the avocado tree in Alayr’s backyard that day. We cut one up and used it in a salad for lunch. Inside, dozens of guava fruits sat in a woven basket. Three pots of food (one rice, one beans, one pumpkin) sat on the stove, keeping warm and filling the small kitchen with a rich smell.

Almost every day that Logan and I were in his hometown, we ate lunch at his grandparent’s home with his family. Without fail, there was rice and beans. Sometimes there was carne seca, a re-hydrated meat that you eat with beans and rice, and bright yellow chunks of mandioca (cassava) sat ready to be squashed with your fork and salted and mixed with salad or whatever you wanted on your plate. The bright spice of fresh watercress surprised me constantly, as it just looked like spinach leaves, and the arugula was more aggressively flavored there as well. I tended to mix them carefully with lettuce because my taste buds were overwhelmed.

The general rhythm of Brazil to me felt like things were either done slowly, evenly, and in unchanging ways, or done quickly and haphazardly. There seemed to be no middle ground. Rice is cooked slowly, kept warm on the stove, and beans are left to soak overnight and then cooked the next day. Avocados are cut open, the mandioca boiled, the jar of salt laid out, the plates brought out at the same time each day. Everybody serves themselves, and after lunch strong black coffee is brewed and served in tiny cups. Sometimes dessert follows, with super-sweet little flans or a small wheel of cheese from Minas Gerais would appear, to be paired with goiabada (guava paste). This was our daily ritual. A small television in the back corner would blare out soccer games and the news. At various times the news focused on different disasters, from the Brumadinho dam collapse to the deadly fire at the Flamenco FC club that killed several of their youth team members. The news, no matter where you are, has the same depressing information.

If you go to Brazil, please try to eat with a family or make some Brazilian friends to eat with. There is no shortage of amazing things to try, and if you do your trip right you will be eating almost constantly, but finding friends or a family to eat with will guarantee that you’re taken care of. I cannot express how amazing it was to be so well fed and welcomed by Logan’s family, and how taking part in so many meals made me feel very lucky.

A typical breakfast there is often toast, coffee, and maybe some yogurt or cheese. Pão de quiejo (cheese bread made with tapioca flour) is also a frequent breakfast companion, and if you feel like sparking some serious heartburn, go for The Trifecta: Pão de queijo, fresh orange juice (suco de laranja), and strong black coffee. It’s absolutely delicious and you might feel like dying later but there’s nothing like it. See the photo below:

You will find pão de quiejo almost anywhere: in cafes, in gas stations alongside the road, in restaurants, etc. and I highly recommend eating a lot of it. The chewy middle and crunchy outside are delicious, and the cheesy flavor is addicting.

If you’re traveling or in a city, one of the most common types of eateries you will encounter will be a kilo restaurant, or a kilo buffet. They’re basically large cafeterias, where you make your own plate and pay by the kilo. They vary in cost and quality, but I love them because you can eat as much or as little, as healthily or as unhealthily as you want. They’ve usually got a salad bar, a couple kinds of pasta, different cuts of meat, rice and beans, and farofa. You’ll see everybody at a kilo to, from ladies stopping in from shopping to businessmen to construction workers. My favorite thing about the kilos is that they ALWAYS have sliced tomatoes, which I usually would bulk up on and just eat on their own. Kilos are also very common inside large rest-stops, which I love because when you’ve been on the road for hours on the slow, toll-clogged roads outside of São Paulo it’s nice to stop, stretch your legs, and eat a healthy meal.

I don’t really have any order or reason to the foods that are discussed here but I just remembered how good all the juices (sucos) are in Brazil. There are a ton of different mixes, and most places have a “Sucos” section in their menu of just juices.

My favorite is “abacaxi and hortelã” which is pineapple and mint. Fresh squeezed orange juice is also delicious. Lots of places feature juices called “detox” which are usually a combination of ginger, mint, and a couple of juices, and is actually delightful, not some cleansing bullshit meant to taste bad.

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Seafood in Brazil is delicious. Shrimp (camarrão) and fish (peixe) and crab (carangeuijo) are abundant. Fresh fried fish, baked shrimp, shrimp pastel, etc.- it’s all there.

Fair warning: Sushi is becoming more common in Brazil but they tend to use farmed salmon and import tuna from very, very far away, and we found that the sushi rice is often way too dense and squishy. If you have to have your sushi, it might be best to wait until you’re in a major city. There are some high-end restaurants that are using local Brazilian fish and seafood in their sushi which means you’re getting fresh ingredients. There is also a decent, well-established Japanese population in São Paulo as well as other large cities and Japanese food in general is plentiful!

Fun random Japanese food fact: Ramen is called “Lamen” in Brazil! It’s easy to find in the cities, and although we didn’t get the chance to have any, I’ve heard it’s delicious.

If you’re invited to a friend’s home for a meal, the odds are you’ll eat outside. One of the most common sorts of get-togethers is a meat and beer dinner. A couple people will be responsible for picking up crates of bottled beer, cuts of meat, and some bread/butter/etc.

Most Brazilian homes have outside grills and barbecues, and you’ll sit around tables chatting, drinking beer, and eating lots of little bits of beef (there WILL BE at least one *good* friend who will refill everybody’s little glasses when they’re not looking, and if you don’t get very drunk at a meat and beer party then you’ve got bad friends).

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A meal in Peiropolis, Minas Gerais, at one of the many kilos we ate at. Little pickles, fries, pasta, rice and beans, etc.- it was so good!

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Another typical Brazilian breakfast, this one at a little paderia, with french loaves quickly pressed on a griddle with butter, coffee, and pao de quiejo.

Fresh coconuts! These are super common, especially on the beaches, and some people love using their straws to scrape out the flesh from the inside (not me!)

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Ripe guava fruits from Logan’s grandpa’s garden. They smelled so good! I think they were made into goiabada later.

Also, I have to talk about pastel. PASTEL. Fried goodness with palm hearts (palmitos), cheese (queijo), shrimp, whatever. A good pastel place will fry them to order. They’re served piping hot and with lots of napkins to soak up the grease. Here we had them at the counter at a little shop in Uberaba marketplace. Apparently drinking a full-sugar Coca Cola is a thing with pastel (I didn’t mind!).

Pastel, coxinha (shredded chicken with cheese inside a breaded fried exterior), fried pork belly, etc.- Brazilians love fried foods that are perfect with cold beer. I heartily encourage y’all to dig in and order some of everything when you’re at a bar. Also, remember that nobody gives a fuck about how your body looks. You’ll sweat so much there it won’t matter anyway.

Acai is a super common treat everywhere, and acai shops are all over. You layer the acai with a bunch of things, like condensed milk, Nutella, granola, honey, powdered milk, various fruits, etc.

My favorite was acai with powdered milk and strawberries, because I know you all care about my personal favorites.

Other foods to eat PLENTY of: 33422711138_328c701bd4_c

Lebanese and Palestinian food! When Logan and I were in Portland we went to a Lebanese restaurant and Logan told the proprieter he was from Brazil. The dude responded “Brazil is like a second Lebanon!” and that is very true. Lebanese food and culture is well-established in Brazil, and good hummus, kibe, baba ganoush, etc. are everywhere. If you’re feeling adventurous there’s a Palestinian restaurant called Al-Janiah in São Paulo that serves the most incredible kibe and is run by a Palestinian refugee. Its become a gathering place of sorts for immigrants, intellectuals, fringe folks who want to have good beer and eat fantastic food, and hear five or six languages in one spot. There’s also frequently live music. If that’s not your vibe, Brasserie Vittoria is AH-MAZING, and they’ve been around for over 70 years. Plus, they serve Cerpa beer which…I will talk about in my liquors post.

As you read this, remember that I spent six weeks in Brazil, and I mostly ate southern Brazilian food, and remember that Brazil is crazy-diverse country and that the food histories there are as complex and differing. I basically barely scratched the surface! 

I will add to this or make another post when I get my 35mm developed and scanned! I took so many photos of meals with film that I do want to share! But, for now, that’s all folks!

So you want to go to Brazil…

Hello comrades,humans, collections of star dust and other assorted material!

I could finally afford to visit Logan this year in Brazil (it’s all that Millennial avocado toast spending I do, I tell ya!). I was lucky enough to travel around the interior of the state of SP, the coast, as well as a bit of the southern part of Minas Gerais (see map below). To be fair, this is like if I went to the USA and traveled just to New York City, part of the New Jersey, and went to Maine for a bit. I’m not an expert, but I did learn a lot and wanted to share what I know!

Before I start, my biggest single recommendation is to have a Brazilian friend or family member there to meet and travel with. It’s a really hard country to get around if you don’t know what’s going on.

1. BRAZIL IS HUGE

  • Brazil is an enormous state with a ton of historical diversity and bio-diversity. Southern Brazil, like in Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, is arid and where a lot of ranching happens. It’s also where a lot of beer is brewed, and a lot of German and Dutch people settled there so there are fun touristy towns that do German-esque celebrations.
  • Northern Brazil is usually seen as poorer and lesser. A lot of Southern Brazilians see Northerners kind of like how Americans have stereotypes about Mexicans (just to clarify, fuck that). It’s not good. Northern Brazil is typically seen as poor, super rural, and there’s not a lot of opportunities there so many people head south to the bigger cities to try and start over. However, there are also a lot of beach resorts and vacation spots in the North (around Recife, Salvador, etc.), because that’s where the most famous beaches are, so a wealth divide is pretty apparent in a lot of places.
  • Where Brazil meets Paraguay is pretty much as sketch as you can get, perhaps minus the Venezuelan-Brazilian border right now.
  • The states themselves are massive. Minas Gerais is like the Texas of Brazil. Each state has a unique history and culture.

2. If you’re American, you NEED a visa.

  • If this makes you want to sigh, I’m going to tell you that it is incredibly difficult for Brazilians to get visas to come to the United States and they’re SUPER expensive, and also require two in-person appointments at the US Embassy in São Paulo, along with HOURS of waiting. In comparison what we have to do is nothing.
  • Americans pay like $45 for our visa, and you apply online. (They changed the restrictions last year and made it way cheaper and easier.) It’s a breeze. Brazil needs tourism so instead of being spiteful about Americans forcing Brazilians to go through a hellish process they’ve decided to make it easier for us.

3. Brazil has a complicated history. Know it, use The Google Machine, because it’s important.  

  • Brazil was “settled” (lol, the Portuguese showed up uninvited) in the early 1500s, but there were already hundreds of thousands of indigenous people called the Jiquabu who lived in dozens of different nations all over the country.
  • The Portuguese quickly killed a lot of indigenous people through disease introduction and labor, so started importing slaves. This did not end until 1888 (yeah, that’s late). As a result, Brazil has a huge population of Afro-Brazilians. Much of the food and culture of Brazil comes from the descendants of slaves. Anthony Bourdain (RIP) has a GREAT episode where he goes to Minas Gerais and learns about the history of Brazilian food and it’s African roots, and I highly recommend it.
  • Today, Brazil is a hugely diverse place. There are a large number of Japanese immigrants in the cities, and Nigeria’s second biggest population lives in Brazil. Lots of people from Angola come over as well. 43% of Brazilians self-identify as mulatto , which is mixed-race, and 8% identify as Black, which means it’s a majority non-white country.

4. Do NOT count on people speaking English everywhere. Also, Portuguese is really hard to understand even if you already know other Romantic languages. 

  • If you’re limiting yourself to traveling in large cities like Rio or São Paulo, or going to a beach resort in Bahia as many Europeans do in the winter, then you’ll probably be okay. Because the Olympics were hosted recently, many of the subway systems in Rio and SP have announcements and signs in both Portuguese and English. A lot of restaurants have English menus too.
  • However, if you are traveling in the interior, learn some Portuguese. Once you’re outside of the city, the odds that you’ll encounter English are fair, but not great.
  • Very few Americans bother to try to learn Portuguese before they arrive, but just learning how to say “hello” (bom dia/boa tarde/boa noite), “nice to meet you” (prazer), “thank you” (obrigado/a), “please” (por favor) and “goodbye” (tchau) will be much appreciated.

5. Brazil is not SUPER safe, don’t be an idiot, but you’ll probably be okay.

  • Keep an eye on your shit. Don’t wear flashy clothes, nice bags, or look like you’re worthy of theft. Be smart about how you get around- if you’re traveling alone as a woman, take taxis or Ubers at night rather than walking or using the subway.
  • Travel with a purpose. If you’re walking around the city, move. Don’t linger, don’t be on your phone, pay attention.
  • Street harassment is common for women. I was with my boyfriend the entire time which really cut down on that stuff, but there is a lot of that bullshit present. Being grabbed in bars, clubs, etc. is also really common.
  • If you’re traveling in a group, loudly speaking English makes you very obviously foreign and more of a target. Be smart and have common sense about where you are, how you appear, etc.

6. Brazil has a lot of racism, just like the USA. 

  • There is still a lot of racism in education and governmental systems and a lot of other barriers to keep people in place. It’s real and it’s endemic, and with Bolsonaro in power, it’s unlikely to get better (#EleNão).

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Now, more fun/practical things to know!

  • If you want to save money, go in May/June/July. 
    • This is Brazil’s winter. Prices for things are highest in December, January, and February, because this is when Brazil’s summer break is, so lots of families are traveling and vacationing. Brazil’s winters are also A LOT more manageable temperature wise (I nearly died being there in January and February!).
  • WEAR A TINY BIKINI AT THE BEACH!!
    • Brazilians give NO fucks about body types at the beach. Rock whatever you fancy. I myself have never felt comfortable rocking a tiny bikini before but went for it and it was AWESOME. 60 year old grannies were rocking smaller bikinis than me! And nobody cares!
  • Cold beer is like a goddamn religion. Take part. 
    • You typically buy 600 ml bottles that are put in protective “beer condoms” (that’s what they’re called I swear) and you sit around plastic tables and drink out of ideally cold little glasses.
      • If you’re beer is not cold, you can refuse it. Cold beer is taken that seriously. Most fridges/freezers have little temperature monitors on the front so you can see that your beer is ideally at about -1 or -2 C when it leaves the freezer.
  • Being called a gringo or a gringa is not an insult!!!! 
    • It’s not. I promise. Get over it.
  • You typically do not tip after meals. 
    • A 10% gratuity is automatically included, unless otherwise noted. You also don’t tip after things like manicures or pedicures (which are DIRT CHEAP so get one!)
  • If you go to a party or a gathering, it is common to greet EVERY SINGLE PERSON THERE. (It’s rude not to!) 
    • A kiss on the cheek and a “tudo bem?” (everything good/how are you?) is common. If you’re meeting somebody, a kiss on the cheek and a “Prazer!” is perfect. (Prazer means “pleasure”.)
    • You do this again when you leave a party. It’s exhausting and not ideal for introverts or those who like to slip away. It’s seen as rude if you do slip away. DO NOT BE RUDE. If I, an extreme introvert, can do this, you can too!
  • Abortion is illegal in Brazil. 
    • People *can* get pills and stuff but it’s usually through back channels, so be extra safe with your sex. Condoms are super easy to get there, and birth control is also pretty readily available, so be smart!!
  • Marijuana is notoriously poor quality and also just really ethically dirty there, (also illegal), so just avoid in general.  
    • If you’re an American and you’ve been in Colorado or Washington and taken part in our green goodness, I would suggest you not do so in Brazil. It is widely known that the quality of any weed in Brazil is going to be bad. It’s also illegal. Also, much like buying cocaine in the USA, by the time a lot of marijuana reaches you there’s probably been a fair amount of violence and really bad shit done so that you could partake, which is selfish and shitty on your part. Be ethical about your drug use people! 

I have SO much more to talk about but I’m going to break down my time there in a bunch of posts, so please STAY TUNED!!! (There will be at least one solely devoted to food and beverages!)

In the meantime, I recommend looking at Shannon Sim’s Twitter if you want to learn a bit more about being an American in Brazil: https://twitter.com/shannongsims

Here’s a neat video that I-D did with Grace Neutral about feminism and women’s movements in Brazil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cja_ND2iIWI

Tchau until next time!

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A little re-introduction (hello).

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Hi, I’m Kate, the bad owner of this blog.

The last time I posted was over THREE FUCKING MONTHS ago because I quit my job, moved, and fucked off to Brazil for a month and a half. Maybe we haven’t met yet.

I’m a Montanan who has spent stints living in Switzerland and British Columbia. I’m mildly obsessed with snakes, frogs, and bats, along with 19th century photography and studying epic women and their lives. I’m an art historian and a historian who has never managed to find work in my field (maybe someday!). Instead, I’ve spent time working for the Forest Service, in the domestic and sexual violence field, and some freelance stints photographing and writing. I collect vintage clothing and cameras, but do not wish to disappear into the past because we live at the pinnacle of dental care right now (which…don’t get me started on historical dental care, but thank your lucky stars you live NOW).

Here you’ll find everything from art market analyses from back in the day to hiking recommendations to recipes to whatever else I decided to write about. For a while I’ll be focusing on telling you all about Brazil, which is a mindfuck of a country, a huge and complicated place, and a dazzling, confusing, corrupt, and fantastical land.

Hello again fellow humans!

Strange Women Go Hot Springing

I took the day off work, crossing my fingers that snow wouldn’t ruin the day. Chelsea was insistent, saying that regardless, we’d be going. The night before, we were marveling at just how good Blackfoot Single Malt IPA beer is (while drinking it) and getting excited. The weather looked clear, shockingly, and I was excited.

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We piled into Chelsea’s car and headed West. I told Logan about our plans, and from deep in South America came the reply, “you strange women have a blast”. We really were a rather strange, rag-tag group, the three of us, thrown together through proximity but choosing to also care about one another, in that strange way that fate and chance have.

The drive was spectacular. Passing burned out woods, tall evergreens, beautiful cottonwoods guarding little meandering creeks, and isolated homes and winding roads that went off to unknown places, Chelsea told us about the place. We got there, with only one truck with a camper on it in the parking lot. Success! Hot springs get notoriously overcrowded and we were thrilled to have some decent odds of having a good time.

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Upon reaching the hot spring after a half mile or so of hiking, we encountered four souls who had been sleeping in the camper. One was unfortunately very naked, and another had brought a waterproof speaker and was playing dubstep. Luckily, they shut the speaker off within about five minutes, because I was going to either punt it like a football or ask them to turn it off, whichever would have offered a quicker solution.

(Pro tip: do NOT be the person who brings a fucking speaker to the hot spring, you are a rude jerk if you do so. Enjoy the fucking tranquility of nature goddammit!)  

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Anyway…

It was beautiful. It was tranquil. Our current hot spring partners seemed a bit…not sober, not stoned, but off. A bit meth-y, perhaps, which is actually not unlikely in rural Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, or lots of other places. Luckily, they left fairly quickly, and we had the hot springs to ourselves for a good while before a dozen or so people came in a big group, complete with a tiny dog.

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That time in the hot spring was amazing. We quietly chatted, took pictures, breathed in the steam, and reveled in the marvelousness of the misty, quiet woods. I felt quietly settled, content in a way I hadn’t in some time. After dropping Colette off Chelsea and I went to Kettlehouse and chatted more, sipping a delicious New England style IPA. It was a damn fine day, with damn fine souls. I couldn’t ask for a better one.

Up the Rattlesnake (Montana is ugly).

Here’s the thing:

Montana is really, really, ridiculously good looking. Example A:

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It’s hard to take bad photographs here. It’s hard to not feel the urge to have a camera on you 24/7 (I usually have more than one to be honest). The sunsets, the trees, the mountains in the Western part of the state- it’s all very ‘Gram worthy (and in fact, I have noticed a lot more “influencers” who are based out of Montana- but that’s a story for another day).

It had snowed pretty consistently Sunday morning so Brenna and I postponed a longer hike and chose to head up the Rattlesnake. This is an area of Missoula that is busy with recreationists year-round, and we were passed by bikers (in the snow, mind you) and soon, I am sure ski tracks will be rife up there as well. Most Montanans (me excluded) have adapted to the reality of winters that last a minimum of six months, and have outdoor hobbies. Again, not me.

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Anyway, we went on a short-ish jaunt in the snow, and it was beautiful. We chatted, looked for animals, admired the quiet of the landscape, and soaked in this manageable amount of snow and cold.

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Here’s Montana in all her ugly, #nofilter. You’re welcome.

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Coisas que eu gosto

 

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Logan’s been gone and my Portuguese has become wretched, choppy, and even sadder than it was before he left (it was never really *that* good) . I’ve been trying to use short, small sentences and find words that I know are in my brain either in Spanish or Italian.

Coisas is close to cosi (It) and cosas (Sp) and so my mind has a bridge. Gosto is close to gustar (Sp), etc. and so forth. I can’t wait to actually hear and re-learn everything I’ve lost soon.

Recently a friend joked that in lieu of a relationship right now I’ve invested in skincare and I can’t say that it’s entirely untrue. Logan is gone but I’ve got little bottles and serums! I’ve shelved my The Ordinary bottles- they were giving me skin problems that made me unhappy, even though I loved the price, the way they felt, and the fact that they did brighten my skin. Instead, I switched to a BHA to help take care of some of the problems caused by the shelved solutions, and bought a new snail repair cream- I had the Mizon ampoule and used it to the last drop but it was sold out on Amazon at the time so I bought it’s sister product! I love the ampoule a bit more- it feels luxurious and less contaminating, whereas with this cream you dip a finger in and then apply. Both are hydrating and make my skin feel very cared for. I love the Mizon repair cream and this Cosrx BHA, they do what they’re supposed to and have been lasting me a while, and they were both right around $17-18. I haven’t yet purchased anything over $20, even though in  my dreams I’d be splurging on something from Drunk Elephant (that’ll be a bit down the road for sure!).

I am nervous for switching up my skincare routine in a few months, as I’ll go from the extremely cold, dry Montana winter to the humidity, sun, and heat in south/central Brazil. It’ll be an adventure in every sense of the word there!

 

Found film: Iceland, May 2015

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Hiking in Iceland was gleefully devoid of warning signs. We stayed on the trail, walking through apocalyptic-feeling sulfur clouds, bathing suits and towels and water packed on our backs. There were one or two signs that let us know to be careful, but a few miles in the trail was devoid of directions.

I like that. I liked the idea that the Icelandic government, the people, whoever, just didn’t bother to post warning signs everywhere, unlike the sign-strewn Yellowstone National Park, which at some points shows children being boiled and burned alive encountering geysers, just in case the wooden boardwalks and the bubbling mud pots weren’t enough of an encouragement to stay on the path. I secretly, morbidly loved the idea that people who were dumb, who didn’t pay attention, could end up in trouble out here, in this barren, strange land with billowing steam clouds, plushy moss, hot ground, snow patches, and rushing creeks coming from sandy, rocky, steep hills. Get your shit together people, just pay attention. 43856350020_1ac2615a49_c43856347250_d43bb8e140_c31802027998_89683ba317_c31802030858_5881a88466_c

We hiked to the hot springs, which were full of loud, naked German men. We immediately decided to keep hiking and wait them out, not wanting spring-mates in the form of slightly intoxicated, boisterous boys who were without a shred of clothing and likely decorum. Nein, danke. As we hiked, it got lonelier, and we encountered fewer and fewer people.

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The land was part Yellowstone, part meadow, part alien. It was bare, with moss, lichen, colorful soil, and lots of pocked, bare volcanic rock. Emily and I were amazed, not even close to tired, even after we’d been hiking for hours. We eventually turned back, and found the river mostly to ourselves, enough that we put down our packs and slipped in. It wasn’t hot; it was warm enough that the day we went it was comfortable, but on a colder day I wouldn’t want to swim! Eventually more and more people packed up and left, and we took off our bathing suits and, like the prudish Americans we were, enjoyed the privacy. I felt like a nymph from a painting in the water, silly and un-bothered by anything.

It really was a joy to re-discover some photos of one of the best days I’ve had on this earth, with one of my favorite humans, in a place neither of us knew and marveled at.

Preparing to leave, part two (visual).

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My time here summed up in visual form.

Photography is a tool, and even the most casual of photographers use this tool in decisive ways. I have used mine to capture the fleeting moments that will last, longer than my anxious thoughts or potentially sad feelings about this place, because if you put me in a corner and asked me, truly, if I was happy here, I would have to tell you that there were moments that were fucking blissful.

Seeing the sunset on our street. The first night we spent in our home. Meeting Logan’s friends from Brazil, bridges between our two worlds that I hadn’t known before. Late nights at the VFW watching a good live show with Nick, Logan, and Ev, feeling like the universe sent good people to be around. Chelsea’s all-too-brief visits that were filled with photos and chats that my soul needed. Quiet mornings at Bernice’s and Butterfly Herbs, nestled at tables and booths with a library book and a note pad. Kettlehouse afternoons, with delicious beer and salty peanuts. Drives out to the Lolo National Forest for fishing, exploring, and renewal. Walking to work in the snow, having the early morning feel like it was all for me as I made the first human footprints on my walk . Watching spring be tenacious and persistent and then take over Missoula with a ferocity I reveled in, photographing blooms and green, chlorophyll-devouring things as eagerly as they emerged from their deep winter slumber.

 

Preparing to leave, part one (text).

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I will be moving out of Missoula in a matter of months, leaving this cozy mountain town with streets I’ve walked hundreds of times, for work, for brews, for the warmth of people I care about. I feel torn between elation at escaping so soon and mourning because I feel like I have half-assed living here. Leaving places half-lived, things partially seen, people not fully explored, makes me feel like a sloppy person. I am not. I am usually meticulous as Hell.

I moved here in May 2017 because Logan got a good job and that’s what you do when one of you gets something promising. We were excited to spend a year together, finally. Montana in the summer is like nowhere else, and we couldn’t wait to find a home, move in, buy some tubes, float the river, and just exist in the ways you get to when you are around your person for more than a few months at a time.

I quickly realized that while I vaguely knew people here, it was hard to pin them down and also terrifying to do so. Mostly non-profit acquaintances, people who had done lobbying at the Legislature, or people I knew from college. I felt ashamed to reach out and make friends because I was unemployed, broke, and still finishing my thesis. I was a messy trifecta of half-done, in-progress things that really mattered to me. I was not sure what was going to happen, if we were always going to be this broke, if I was always going to get interviews and still never land a job, if my thesis edits would ever really, truly be done.

Despite the struggles, Missoula felt so full of promise, and people here seemed happy, settled, or had at least found something that made them feel content enough to stay, and I eagerly looked for those feelings or motivations. I looked in bars, on the shores of rivers, in bakeries with black coffee, in art galleries, at live music shows, on long walks as dusk tinged everything in blues and purples. I caught glimpses of them as I listlessly meandered around town, jobless and ashamed, lonely but too proud to reach out to people I kind-of-knew, wanting needing somebody to tell me, as they looked me in the eye, You are going to be just fine. Missoula is a shit-show for the unemployed. Most of us are working two jobs. The wages are notoriously terrible. You are going through something we all have.

The problem is that if you don’t reach out to those kind-of-knew people, you don’t ever give the opportunity for anything to arise. In my introverted-ness, compounded by personal challenges, I hid. Everybody I sort-of-knew here seemed content enough that it felt horrible to ask them to leave that space and come, however temporarily, to my little plot of guilt and fear.

After that, once fall and winter came on, I felt okay, and my awkwardness and lack of friends were quieted because in the span of three months I had defended a thesis I was proud of, said goodbye to British Columbia and grieved a bit, and landed a job that seemed like it would fill in a lot of holes that had been present mentally. That proved to be wrong, but the point is that I felt okay with having this other gaping hole of relationships persist, because you can’t have it all, and I had more than I had in a long, long time. A wonderful partner, a job, a house, a Master’s degree. Why get greedy?

I still felt like I needed to seek that feeling, though. That seeking, to this day, has given me lots of beginnings, almost no middles, and one ending that will occur soon.

I have pondered and turned these ideas of place, of settling, of bonds that make you want to stay, until they went from a rock with bits of dirt and detritus clinging, to a smooth stone that I can put in my pocket, rubbed down and worried to no end. There was never enough time here. By the time spring rolled around, I was mentally preparing for Logan to depart as his visa was expiring soon. A big change that would have us both not having much figured out, just a fierce hope, sheer determination and one Canadian work visa between the two of us, because neither of our countries could house us both. I mourned after he left- it was a shock to have our house emptied of him, our happy yellow house with apple trees, where we valiantly battled wasp nests, drank wine on the porch, read books in bed, were broke and happy and curious together. So, once again, I folded inward, adjusting to this awful newness.

Anyway, I guess this is an admission in some ways. I am bad at putting down roots. I have moved every two years since I was eighteen, just in time to find the people I imagine could be worthwhile and leaving just before the layers of friendship set like so many layers of stain on bare wood, protecting and illuminating the right qualities. I feel so torn departing, relief flowing through me because this challenging period of my life will be ending, but also feeling like a jerk because I feel like I didn’t make enough happen. Missoula is a beautiful place, with soul and meaning. I will reflect on more of that in further posts, but I feel strongly that what I discuss here contains some of my biggest regrets, so I need to abandon them here.

Upstate but feeling low

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Lately I’ve been realizing how in statis I’ve been. Like an animal keeping its metabolism slow so that it can conserve calories. It’s tiring in it’s own way.

I wrote a bit about this on Instagram and here’s part of it.

“I feel untethered, but it’s hard to tether yourself to anything when you’re in a state of preparing, however slowly, to leave. I want to be making big loud friendships with complicated amazing people, and I want to be social and look outside my box, but it’s hard not to feel duplicitous building relationships that likely won’t last or gain the beautiful layers of depth that many do only after lots of time. I guess moving every two years like clockwork is catching up to me a bit.”

Tonight after expressing these feelings, I came home and made a risotto with chanterelle mushrooms, had a glass of wine, and currently have a face mask on. Laundry is in the dryer, dishes are done, work is over, and life is moving along in the clunky but regular way it is right now. I get to look back on beautiful photos like the ones above that show quiet, sunny days in Upstate New York of spiderwebs, marble topped dressers a hundred years old, and oil-based skincare that I talked about in my previous post.

A little routine.

There is already snow in large parts of Montana and it’s awful. I am trying to get ready for the cold, the dry air, the static-y hair and all the things that go along with winter. In the meantime, the brief Montana autumn is in full swing.

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This summer has been about things that feel luxurious, work well, and are affordable. As one of those lucky wenches who only gets acne around the end of my cycle, I really only needed to find products that hydrated and brightened my skin, and being on a budget, I searched for a while before I decided on some things, and after several months these four things have made their way and stayed in my routine.

I don’t have the money to experiment a whole lot, mostly just with masks, and these are pretty well-known, respected products, and they did what they were supposed to. My personal favorite is the Mizon ampoule, which feels luxurious, has no smell, and comes in a lovely little glass bottle that feels much fancier than the price tag. This has lasted me three months and I need to buy another! The Ordinary products are all the rage and some of them work and others don’t. These two products feel good and definitely have brightened my skin, and they’re going to last me a long time- I apply them and switch them out about every other night before my final moisturizer and I’ve barely made a dent and it’s been almost three months since I’ve had them. Last but not least is the notorious Pixi Glow Tonic which does exactly what it’s known for. It gives my skin the perfect canvas to apply serums, ampoules, etc. and it makes my skin happy.

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I feel a bit pretentious talking about my skin but as somebody on a budget, it feels neat to find things that have done what I’ve wanted and haven’t disappeared too quickly despite regular use. I love that they’re mostly in glass and it feels really lovely to be a little luxurious before bed and when I wake up and treat my skin right. Do you have any routines, products, or habits that make you feel a bit elevated?

I’m going to Brazil in a few months and I’m trying to figure out what to bring there, where the humidity and unrelenting heat will be very different for my skin than the dry, cold air that has settled in Montana. We shall see.

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Missoula in early autumn is something else.

The park begins to get tinged in yellow and the lightest shades of orange. The students are back and the bars become busy and crowded. But mornings remain quiet, private, and beautiful. Sometimes I get up even earlier than normal so I can go have a cup of coffee and watch the sun touch the world.